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The Pen to Print Awards 2023.

Three trophies stand on a plinth, First, Second and Third. 2023 Pen to Print Awards.

The 2023 Pen to Print Competition Winners Announced

The 2023 Pen to Print writing competition winners were announced on Thursday 6 July 2023 at The Broadway Theatre, Barking.  All of the winners receive a trophy and a tablet PC. The winner of the Audio Play competition will also get their play fully produced & recorded by our partner Alternative Stories.

Click the titles to read the full pieces.

And the winners are ...


The Lonely Soldier
by Claire Linton

The Lonely Soldier

This lonely man sits, where once a brave soldier stood,
He fought for our freedom, and for the greater good,

He will always be there, same time same place,
Bright watery eyes and deep lines on his face,

On the bench slightly hunched, his feet turned in,
walking stick in hand, resting under his chin,

His fallen comrade’s souls, sit by his side,
As he remembers his pals, who fought and died,

At 5 and twenty-two he heads off and shuffles along,
Wiping his eyes as he hums a song,

“We’ll meet again, don’t know where don’t know when”
Oh, how the world is now, and what it was then,

His bravery ensured freedom for me and you,
If you ever see him, say a big thank you.

© Claire Linton


Stephanie Weston





Chloe Lawrence-Taylor



The Ancient Beauty
Terry Buss



Hamish Clayton




All Around You
Laura Oh

A pastle drawing of a gostly white figure kneeling alongside a grave stone head and torso lying on a small table facing towards the viewer, pen in hand. A pale blue sky with large white clouds is behind. A larege pale yellow sun rising between them. Small flowers or petals are swirling around the image as if blown around by a gentle breeze and a small brown dog stands in the foreground on a expanse of pale green grass, as if waiting.

Illustrating: Distraction  A Sonnet by Mary Walsh

I sit down at my desk to write some lines
The virginal paper ready for its ink
While outdoors the sun beckons and shines
Luring me out until my soul can’t think

I stand and sip my coffee now gone cold
I watch the blooms and blossom shake their heads
The dog gambols about happy and bold
My work lies sleeping softly in my head

I sigh and sit once more my fingers poised
I wait for inspiration to appear
At last, a pause in all the urban noise
A word, a line, and thought rise in my inner ear

And so, I write a sonnet when I feared
My muse had left me never to come near.
© Mary Walsh, 2022

Key Stage 2 Winner
Over Winner of the Michael Feld Memorial Savler

by Amara


Sometimes…I feel ignored.
Like a ghost blocked off from the
Where were my friends?
It’s like they don’t know me anymore.


I want them to notice me, talk to me.
But I don’t want to seem like an attention seeker.
Do they talk about me?
If so, I wish they’d talk TO me.


Do they know I exist? And I am here?
Am I even good enough for them?
Do they not like me or something?
Because that’s what it feels like.


It’s like I am in a room full of dead people.
But I bet they’d try to talk to me.
Are these people brick walls or my friends?


There are good days and bad days. 

There are more bad days now though. 

I don’t want to be ignored anymore. 

I want my loving friends back again. 

What changed?                


I need their support. 

I need their love and care. 

I need them back. 

Because I feel like dust. 

Which gets brushed onto the floor. 

Trashed like it’s nothing. 

These so-called friends act like I’m invisible. Unknown. 


I am their friend. 

But probably their least favourite one. 

Nowadays, I’m the one who gets left out most of the time. 

The one who has no P.E. partner, the one who misses out on sleepovers, the one who they ignore. 


Did I do something so bad that they won’t talk to me? 

Surely not, I don’t remember doing anything like that. 

I am a human being, who should be heard. 

I need a friend who listens, someone who is interested.
Interested in me. 


Why can’t they appreciate me like how I appreciate

Key Stage 3 Winner

Coping Mechanisms

Coping Mechanisms  


The world’s a giant mess, 

With secrets we’d rather not confess 

But when we’re not at our best 

What helps relieve our stress? 


For me I close my eyes and it frees 

me to live my greatest fantasies 

I can see all that I wish to see 

and I may imagine all that I wish to be 

It truly works for me 


When the amount of stress is dear 

Severe is your greatest fear 

What helps our smile reappear? 

In a world full of the insincere 


I listen to music that’s so therapeutic, 

The stress I fight is losing 

While listening to something amusing 

My growing happiness is cruising 


In times of stress I pick up a ball 

Play until I win or fall 

Make me forget everything, forget it all 

Make me forget the horrors I used to recall 

Kick into a goal, or shoot hoops in the hall 

Peace of mind it installs 


So, no need to be scared 

Just be prepared 

It’s the day you’re informed 

If you find your coping mechanisms 

Your happiness will soon be restored. 


Pen to Print Speech and Drama Festival with A Laughing and Sad Theatrical Mask.

Poem Winner

A Mother’s First Tear



A Mother’s First Tear  

She said it was the happiest moment of her life 

Although she was under the knife. 

She said that the room seemed brighter than ever 

And she said she wanted that moment to last forever 

Pain seemed to hinder in the background, but she still slipped in a gentle smile 

That moment of hell that was installed in a period of 14hrs was now meaningless 

That victory from not giving into the light was now known as what she said. 

She said it was amazing; it was fascinating but that pain at that time was heartbreaking. 

The screaming, shouting and stinging pain from the patient’s room seemed bloodcurdling. 

She could feel the heartbeat, she could feel the breathing 

But she wondered why she couldn’t feel everything 

Her hands were numb, and it felt like there were pins and needles in her legs 

She wanted it to be over and she wanted to see you 

She wanted it to be over and wanted to meet you 

The pain was bearable because her love was unbreakable 

The love that was there when you were the size of a grape 

The love she had to shape 

She would go high and low for you even when there was a storm 

She knew what she wanted to do was to just transform 

Then you were born, and the terrible times melted away. 

With a cry from you and a smile from her. 

The connection was made. 

Mother and child. 

Life giver and offspring. 

And the vociferous, shrill and piercing noise that came after sent a single drop of water rolling down her cheek. 

At last, ……. 

Pen to Print Speech and Drama Festival with A Laughing and Sad Theatrical Mask.

Monalogue and Overall Winner

Maryam and Matthias



I’m new here, I moved here a few days ago and let me tell you something, these people here just don’t understand me. I’ve got boys coming near me everywhere I go blushing, so I just go away from them. Then I see a boy, a sad boy, he’s always sitting there, and you know he actually seems kinder than the other boys. I’m used to boys liking me, but I just wished that they would leave me alone.   

You know I see the same boys that like me always going up to that boy and picking on him. I want to stop them, but then I just feel shy, you know, and I sort of back away.  


On the second day of school I saw the boy, his face was marked with a bruise, and I felt a part of me die inside, even though I don’t know him, so I sat next to him.  

He was different to the other boys; his hair was a sandy yellow kind of colour, and his bag was grey, he seemed grey himself, so depressed and melancholy. 

I felt so bad for him, and when he saw me he pushed his sandy hair away from his light grey eyes and just looked at me, and he simply told me that he was like the sun and now he was like rain. A few boys heard him and of course they made fun of him telling me not to hang out with such a weirdo, so I told them to, well, you don’t need to know what I told them because it’s a word that could get me in trouble. Anyway, they seemed well shocked, but as if I cared about some manky stupid idiots who followed me as if I was their pet.  


When I had asked that poor boy his name, he told me it was rain. I knew he was lying, but I had a feeling that he was just shy, so I didn’t say anything, in fact neither of us said anything for a while and we just sat on the bench staring into space. I tried to start a conversation by asking what he was looking at and he told me that he was trying to look at his family up in heaven. Then he looked at me…and he finally told me…that his name was Jack.  


Julie Dexter 


SAKURA (Japanese Cherry Blossom) At the start of spring, Verdant buds form, subtle, still yet tightly closed like a fist that won’t budge At the heart of spring, pale pink glimpsed, cocooned, still furled. Sunlight kisses warmth into their stems, so they yield unwillingly. Then, magic ascends, layers of tissue paper unwrap, gossamer-thin. Blooms appear, spun like candy floss, until the breeze blows a snowstorm and the delicate pale pink petals swirl, hover, f l o a t to the ground in a dance of confetti.



The Felling
Fillipo Rossi















A Pattern
Deirdre Carney


Treading on Freckled Speckled Eggshells
Linda Hibbin

It is familiar,

or is it?

With narrowed eyes, Bill focuses on the meandering river in the broad green valley below. Hundreds of geese congregate on the dry, drab mudflats, as crevassed as Bill’s whiskered cheeks.

The length, breadth, height, the overwhelming weight of the sky, is frightening.

The old man clenches his toes within his scuffed brogues. He’s gripping the earth to prevent himself from falling into the cerulean where he fears he’ll become snaggled in silver clouds snaking across the azure alongside the contrails of … of … whatchamacallits?

Itsy, bitsy, itchy, words escape him. He understands most of what he sees but often can’t put names to things, and deep within his consciousness, something helplessly claws to escape a drifting puddle of confusion. He wipes sweat from his brow.

Hot long summers

we lay here on this grass.

Joan threading daisy chains.

waving buttercups under my chin

I love butter sweetheart but I love you more.

Sandwiches filled with ah, with what are they called?

Leaving morsels in the grass the blackbird’s ringing song of thanks

drifts   after   us   on   an   undulating   wave   of   air    like   ahhh… Bisto

Bill’s blood-speckled, tired eyes wrench free and return to the calming verdant river valley and the gaggle of geese, where ‘now’ is the right time and inherited hormones, in a nanosecond, trigger the urge to travel. Their minds connect, and they rise honking and barking, as one, flying without hesitation in a red arrow formation, following an invisible dotted line northward.

Shrill voices and yaps drag Bill’s gaze back to the recreation ground. Around him, dogs scamper, children skip, and the seesaw thumps and swings squeak. A vibrant picture.

A micro-universe of fragile fluid floating filaments,

teasing him with memories of paint squeezing from tubes,

brushing across rough canvas, oily fingers, sweet aroma in his nostrils.

An ethereal colour chart of hues floods his mind there, then gone and forgotten.

A blackbird’s song snuffed out the memories.

Bill stares blankly at the young couple and little girl standing nearby.

He hears, but her words mean nothing as the woman speaks to the man. ‘I worry about her portrait. He’s rubbed his fingers over her face so often the paint’s beginning to flake. Then, when he picks up his paints, he just messes with them and sits staring at the splodges. He was so talented …’ she chews her lip to stop it from trembling.

‘Come ON, Grandad.’ A small hand slips into Bill’s. A pretty child, her freckled face flushed, smiles uncertainly. ‘We’re going to see Nana.’

‘For pity’s sake,’ the man snaps and the woman holds her finger to her lips and says gently, ‘Beth. Shush.’

‘But we are, Mummy.’

Bill looks around with a puzzled expression. ‘Where’s …?’

The thought drifts away.

The woman approaches. ‘C’mon, Dad,’ and she and the child walk on either side of him, holding his hands, cloaking him in a momentary calm. The child chatters and skips, but Bill is listening to church bells.

They enter an avenue of tall trees that reach across, creating a canopy through which the sun shoots narrow beams onto the pathway. The gravel ripples like water beneath dappled, speckled hues of grey, green-grey, blue-grey and slithers of lavender shadows.

There is a church at the end of the path. The bells ring louder. LOUDER. FASTER. An urgent, angry, burning red spike of anxiety forces Bill to quicken his pace, snatching his hands from the woman and child.

‘Late … late … am I late?’

For what?

A blackbird hops along the top of an ancient knobbly wall of chalky rocks from the nearby quarry. Bill pushes open a tall wrought iron gate. It squeaks and grinds a welcome.

Damp confetti, candy pink, marshmallow white, is wedged between the flagstones. ‘Am I late?’ Bill asks the woman feebly, picking at his clothes, eyes wide. ‘Where’s … Joan?’ Disorientated and distressed, he calls, ‘Joan,’ shrugging off comforting hands, deaf to the kind voices.

Something is wrong … wrong … something is … not right.

Through the open church door, coloured diamonds of sunlight dance on empty pews.

The organ thumps out the wedding march,

a photographer cajoles laughing friends and relatives,

funereal chords weeping people hover like distraught crows,

his soul mate throws a floral tribute, in loving memory, beloved wife.

Lifting his bride, swinging her around, infectious giggles shyly caressing him.

Kissing her pale breast, creamy parachute silk slippy sliding down to slender ankles

‘Where’s …?’


The woman gently embraces Bill and turns him so that he looks into her eyes, as blue and consuming as the sky. ‘Mum’s not with us anymore, Daddy. Joan’s … she’s gone.’

The words have no meaning there’s nothing, nothing, nothingness.

A blackbird flutters before the church door, calling and singing, startling Bill.

Suddenly he laughs. ‘Well, I never, look at that, Jill.’ He playfully nudges his daughter. ‘A blackbird singing its heart out. Your mother has a soft spot for blackbirds. Where is she? She’s a right one … late as usual.’

We lay under the trees,

looking up into the branches,

watching the acrobatic squirrels,

listening to the blackbird serenading,

kissing her sun-speckled freckled cheeks,

pushing her dress aside nuzzling her shoulder,

trailing fingers along her leg higher, higher, wanting her.

‘Pack it in Romeo’, laughing, wriggling, stopping the errant hand.

Flirting through lowered lashes, whispering ‘It’s not long now my dearest.’

Bill becomes aware of crunching gravel. The child leads him as he shuffles unsteadily along a path between weathered tombstones, leaning like old men or as recumbent as war heroes. A blackbird lands on the gravel ahead of them and then launches itself skyward before sweeping down into a tree, hopping from branch to branch.

Laughing at the bird’s antics, Bill cheerfully asks the child, ‘D’you know, the blackbird sings a repertoire of notes and phrases stolen from other birds. It can mimic people as well.’

‘But it’s not black, Grandad. It’s brown.’

Bill ruffles Beth’s hair. ‘That’s because it’s a lady blackbird.’ He hesitates, grasping for words. ‘She’s a chatterbox … like you … strange … the females don’t usually sing as much as the males.’

‘Dad. We’re here.’ The woman places a hand-tied bunch of alstroemeria on a grave. Upright, so the water doesn’t leak out.

Bill cups his ear, listening to the chirps and trills from scores of birds.

‘It’s as if the birds are singing to you, Grandad,’ the little girl says in awe.

Bill leans down, his face close to his granddaughter’s. ‘Listen carefully, Beth. D’you hear that blackbird mimicking other birds. They can mimic cats, you know.’

‘Copycats, Grandad.’ The child giggles, Joan’s giggle. Her wide smile is sunshine saturating Bill with a kaleidoscope of warm, dazzling golden shards.

Mummy and Daddy told Beth Grandad goes away to a special place in his head sometimes.

Grandad is back.

Bill hugs her, then sees an egg on the limestone chippings. As lost as the words he can’t remember. A blackbird’s egg. He cushions it in the palm of his hand, delighted by the smooth blue freckled surface.

‘Speckled like Joan’s freckles,’ he murmurs and looks around ‘Where is she?’

‘Oh, Dad.’

An arm circles his waist, and Bill looks down at a speckled freckled face. ‘Joan, my darling.’ He strokes Jill’s downy, cheek. ‘Where have you been hiding?’

‘Oh, Daddy, no. I’m Jill. Look …’ Sobbing, Jill points to the headstone.

Bill watches a pair of playful squirrels helter-skelter up, down and around a tree trunk.

Jill falls into her husband’s arms, weeping. ‘I can’t do this any longer, Paul. He constantly asks for her, and I feel I’m treading on eggshells when I remind him … I wait for him to remember Mum’s gone … dread having to watch his heart break … but it doesn’t sink in. Will he ever understand?’

‘Maybe it’s better this way, darling. For him.’

The little girl skips around her grandmother’s grave. ‘Hello, Nana. Grandad’s here. I won a special pencil today ’cos I got all my spellings right. The writing bit moves in and out when I twist the end. Grandad, Grandad, look, watch me spell.’ Beth jumps in front of the headstone.

‘J…O…A…N,’ she chants as her finger traces each engraved letter.

Bill watches her touch each character, his lips silently spelling the word with his granddaughter.

He looks at the egg and gently replaces it where he found it, then stiffly lowers himself onto his knees and presses his fingers into the incised inscription on the cold stone, quietly saying each word.

‘Take Beth home, Paul. I’ll stay with Daddy.’


‘Yes. Beth, say … say goodbye to Grandad.’

‘Bye, Grandad. Love you, LOTS.’ A big hug.

‘See you later, Buddy.’ A firm, friendly squeeze on his shoulder.

Bill runs his hands across the marble gently as if he were caressing living flesh. Abject sorrow racks his whole being. Arms hold him. A body trembling with unshed tears presses against his. ‘I love you, Daddy, so much.’

A blackbird hops from grave to grave and settles on Joan’s memorial.

Bill and the blackbird are motionless.

Finally, the bird cocks her head and stares at Bill with one bright eye.

‘Joan?’ Bill waits. ‘Sweetheart?’

The blackbird stretches forward and doesn’t flinch as the tip of Bill’s finger gently touches the feathers on her brown speckled breast.

A cool breath, soft lips brush his cheek.

Unknown to his daughter, Bill is singing his heart out.

Then, what remains of his fragile multiple selves, unpeel and layer by layer, dive into the deep honeyed brown liquid pools of the creature’s eye. Two souls unite and Bill’s consciousness no longer exists in the physical world.

‘Dearest Bill’,

‘Joan sweetheart’,

a familiar giggle.

‘By the way     they were egg sandwiches     you daft old sod.’

 ©Linda Hibben, 2023


Beneath the Hard Shell

Amanda Wynne





Genevieve Flintham

If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.

Toni Morrison

One should begin any work of fiction with the longest, most convoluted sentence imaginable, then try to beat that record.

Charles Dickens

Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the readers.

Stephen King

You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it.

Octavia E.Butler

Writing is a great comfort to people like me, who are unsure of themselves and have trouble expressing themselves properly.

Agatha Christie

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

Maya Angelou

Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.

Louis L’Amour

It is better to ask some of the questions than to know all the answers.

James Thurber

Creativity is contagious, pass it on.

Albert Einstein

To write successfully, one requires only a sharp pencil, a piece of paper and a hot cup of tea.

Agatha Christie

Poetry is when an emotion has found it’s thought, and the thought has found words.

Robert Frost

Writing lets you break boundaries because you can go anywhere you wish.
The voice in my stories is sometimes authentic, sometimes it is foreign.
Sometimes it is old. Sometimes it is new. Sometimes my writing is Muslim, other times it is Sikh and many times, it is no one’s religion because as long as I am telling the story,
I am in control.
I am whoever I want to be.

Farzana Hakim, Book Challenge Author
Pen to Print Writer